GRANT BAUERMEISTER The Radical Expression of Mexico City
At what point do we grow tired of the simple white masses, their long, slender windows, their lack of color or ornamentation? Or yet another glass, wood, and steel box, so proud in its “honesty,” its adherence to rules of design, its meticulously studied proportions adhering to the musings of a long-dead Greek?
What happened to our post-modern ideals, our irreverence for traditional, constraining rules?
Mexico City’s got the idea.
Architecturally, it seems to be a rare bastion of human-connected architecture, one of the few places that understands how built structures are to be lived in, are to be as real as their inhabitants.
Materiality is honest not only in its identity but also in its ability to be manipulated. Instead of dogmatically exposing the original, unfinished colors of whatever material is used, murals cover walls, paint cracks and peels beautifully, revealing historical coats beneath. Each expressive façade creates a chromatic patchwork when viewed from a distance, accented by the ever-present vegetation planted throughout the city.
Form is a strange mixture of whimsical and modern, with strong, masculine lines bleeding seamlessly in to subtle curves comprised of structural glass block, brick, or specially formed glass. Windows are, of course, squares!....or portholes, or triangular, or tall and slender, or any permutation one’s imagination could create.
Mexico City is the master of the “private public” space - that is, a public space that can be co-opted to create an secluded place of reflection, an observation point, or any manner of individual-scale spaces. Instead of an obsession with “efficient plans,” Mexico City trades a portion of spatial efficiency for heightened experientialism. Curved corners of glass create the perfect dimensions for a reading chair with ideal, natural illumination. The campus of Universidad Iberoamericana pulls back its masses of red brick to reveal vegetation-lined spaces of intimate contemplation. Apartments occupying triangular lots run to the very edge, creating knife-edge corners of a sharpness that would never be explored in the States. Even architectural sculpture is designed to be explored and occupied. The enormous circular pit sculpture in the National Autonomous University of Mexico sculpture garden features concrete blocks that are exactly steep enough to climb, steep enough to add a sense of accomplishment and adventure. The top of the wedge offers enough space for one or two people to enjoy incredible views of the mountains and cityscape.
No dogmatic ideas of “ideal ratios” or arbitrary aesthetic near-morals or ideas of abstracted efficiency uncoupled from the ideas of true material usage efficiency hinder Mexico City’s radical architectural expression. The architecture of Mexico City is for the people of Mexico City, not a group of detached, dead academics more concerned with leaving egotistical design decrees than architecture that enhances the human experience.